OTTAWA — Canada’s largest private broadcaster, CTV, said it would pull its signal or block out popular programs unless it can agree on a new financial deal with cable and satellite companies.
For 40 years, companies such as Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications have been carrying the signal from networks such as the CBC, CTV and Global, without paying the networks.
The networks, which have survived until now on advertising revenue, say ads no longer cover the cost of doing business and it’s time for the cable companies to pay a “fee for carriage.”
The cable companies are refusing, insisting the only reason networks are losing money is because they have made bad business decisions.
On Monday the CRTC, Canada’s national broadcasting regulator, began holding hearings in an attempt to resolve the issue and broker a deal. Ivan Fecan, president and CEO of CTVglobemedia, told CRTC officials that unless it was paid for its content it would pull its signal from cable and satellite companies.
CTV currently has the rights to broadcast a number of popular U.S. shows. If CTV pulls its signal the network could also prevent cable and satellite carriers from showing those programs, even if they appear on a U.S. network.
As this debate raged, high-profile Canadian television actors, writers and producers held a rally on Parliament Hill to demand that whatever deal is struck include more money for Canadian-produced content.
“We want the broadcasters to put 6% of their revenue into original, Canadian scripted drama and comedy,” said Mark McKinney, former star of Kids in the Hall. “There’s a good argument for it.”
The group says over the last 10 years Canadian-produced content has fallen, with only $54 million spent on Canadian English-language drama last year, compared with the $740 million Canadian networks spent buying U.S. shows.
“If we don’t take a stand right now then it might be 10 years before we can make this application again,” said Nicholas Campbell, the former star of Da Vinci’s Inquest.